A Tombstone Tourist Does Seattle

Lake View Cemetery, Seattle, Washington.

My vacation itinerary always includes a cemetery or two…or three. Sure, I love checking out the art scene in a new city, historical sites, shopping and eating. I’m a foodie too, definitely. But you see an entirely different side of a place when you visit its graves, don’t you think?

Lake View Cemetery, Seattle, Washington

On my recent trip to Seattle, I did my usual vacation prep and Mapquested cemeteries in the area. There are about six, but with the coffee and the chocolate and the glass museums and the history and… did I mention the chocolate? I only had time for Lake View. What a jewel!

I wondered who left the flower, descendant or art lover.

These gnarly, twisted trees were everywhere.

Lake View was established back in 1872 and sits up on Capital Hill northeast of downtown Seattle. One of those cool, old neighborhoods that just oozes character has grown up around it so it’s a bit of a twisty trek to get there. But worth it! The monuments are a great mix of styles, old and new, East and West.

This one says, “The more people I meet, the more I love my cat.”

I love the name and the calligraphy.

A murder of crows  claims the cemetery grounds and every monument in them. The birds are smart and wary and hard to get a decent picture of, but their raucous chatter never stopped.

Keeping watch over her domain.

He knew his grave would end up being a perch for crows anyway.

So, for a short visit to Seattle, I’d put Lake View, the EMP Museum (AWESOME), the Chihuly glass museum and all the European sipping chocolate you can sample on my list of must-do’s. Anybody have any other suggestions for a Seattle trip? I definitely want to go back.  I know that Jimi Hendrix is buried in Greenwood Memorial nearby. Anybody been there?

Hiawatha, Kansas

To say that the Davis memorial in Mount Hope Cemetery is off the beaten path doesn’t quite do its location justice.

Hiawatha, Kansas is in the heart of America’s farm country. Gorgeous, but remote.

John and Sarah Davis’s strange memorial was worth the drive. I’ve never seen anything like it. Thirteen marble statues plus urns, marble walls and roof depict every stage of the couple’s fifty year marriage.

John commissioned the work in 1930 when Sarah died. Sculptors in Carrara, Italy carved the stones until 1940.

According to legend, the townsfolk were pretty miffed that John would spend that kind of money, nearly all his family fortune, when times were so hard. 1930 was the middle of the Great Depression, but he had a point to make.

Sarah’s family hadn’t approved of their marriage. The couple was childless and John had no intention of his wife’s relatives getting a penny when he passed away.

The story makes sense. There’s waaaaay too much marble squashed onto one little burial plot. It looks like John kept trying to find more ways to spend away his money. That marble roof must weigh 50 tons! And it’s a b*#!@ to photograph!  Somebody with a better camera than mine needs to make the trek to Hiawatha and do this monument justice.

To me, the site ends up being not only a monument to a man who loved his wife, but to human foibles as well.

Faces on Tombstones

You meet a lot of people in graveyards.  Every face tells a story.

Sometimes it’s just a story

 of time passed. 

Sometimes it’s a story of sorrow and loss.

 

Sometimes the sheer beauty of a face tells the sculptor’s story. I love those, don’t you?

Hey, thanks everybody who took my poll last week. Who knew there were so many of us taking our lunches to the grave?

Why I Love ‘Em

I love graveyards for all that they tell us, for the lives they hint at and the peace they promise every single denizen.  I suppose part of it’s that prurient fascination we all have with tragedy.  The reason Old Yeller’s a classic; why people love to read Nicolas Sparks or Jodi Piccoult and listen to sad country songs; sometimes you just want to cry.

Stone is a beautiful medium.

 Every tombstone’s a sculpture with a story.  Some speak more artfully than others, but it’s often the most crudely carved that tell the best tales.

I like the colors and patterns of lichen on white marble.  I like pictures of the deceased embedded in the stones.  I like glossy new markers with sharp edges and old ones with quaint, old fashioned names.

What sparks my imagination in new and old are the hints they tell about the relationships left behind.  What happened to the family of a row of children who all died in the same year?  How much must a man have loved his wife when she died three decades before him, but he still chose to be buried beside her?

I ran across one way out in the country the other day.  It was a small cemetery on a hill thrust up from among soybean and corn fields.  There were about a hundred people buried there.  The most recent grave was less than a decade old, a double stone.  A boy, 13 years old, was buried on the right, “beloved son.”  On the left was his “loving father.”  The father’s name was there, his birth date, but no death date.  No mom.  Toy race cars and new silk flowers lay on the boy’s side.  Dad’s side was clean, empty.  Somewhere, here in my world, Dad was waiting for the day he’d see his son again.

Doesn’t that make you wonder? It’s amazing how much a few words, a trinket or two and couple of dates in stone can convey about a life, and a death.